How to Go About a Quality Link Building Exercise
Google has been reminding website builders and marketers of the importance of quality link building for years now. Ever since the Google Penguin update came out a couple of years ago, it's become clearer than ever that while most of these people have been hearing Google, they have not really been listening. They haven't understood what exactly Google's admonitions really mean. Apparently, when they hear Google tell them to concentrate on “quality link building”, they fail to hear the “quality” part.
What are quality links?
With Google releasing new updates to its Panda algorithm on a regular basis now, the emphasis on quality link building is stronger than ever. Basically, the general rule to follow is this: if the links that you are getting for your website are easy to get, if they are links that you don't really need to earn through effort, they are not quality links.
Many people do know how to simply get links of one kind or another. If that is all that you are interested in, you might as well throw in the towel. You want to have absolutely no interest in a link that you don't have to kill to get.
Unfortunately, most people seem to have no concept of what exactly a quality link is. Let's take a quick look at what quality link building does and doesn’t include:
- It is still okay to submit to article directories for links, even if for the most part, they seem to have fallen out of favor with Google. But you need to make sure that the directory you submit to is a major one that gets a lot of traffic from real people doing real searches. It doesn't make any sense simply to submit an article to a directory like Ezine Articles simply because it's a directory.
- Social bookmarking sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon are quite actively used. Submitting your pages to these bookmarking sites for links should be a good idea, because they see regular traffic from real people who are interested in finding information.
- Comments on blogs with links back to your website can be a very good idea. But only if the blogs you go to for your links are very relevant to the subject your website deals in, and the comments you leave there are good, relevant ones. A person who goes to just any website and leaves a link there is only a spammer. Those links don’t count.
Actually, a basic rule of thumb to follow here would be to simply never do things around the Internet because you want links to gain search engine rankings with. If there's nothing inherently meaningful about your linking activities, it's probably not quality link building. Anyone can simply hop about the Internet and leave a few links around. Google knows this, and those links don't count for much.
What kind of meaningfulness should you look for? You could try important websites that have quality traffic from a high quality audience who might be directly interested in the content you have on your website. The links that you leave there in your comments would stand a chance. Those website visitors, once they read your thoughtful and well-written comments, would want to stop by your website because they are that impressed.
In short, quality link building tries to attract real people. Poor link building, on the other hand, tries to play the numbers game just for Google's benefit. Google knows when a link is just left behind for its benefit. Those algorithms are at least that smart now. Only links meant to directly draw people in work, with Google. Google rewards links that are built for people with good search engine positioning.
How directories got started
Back when the Internet got its start in earnest about 1997 or so, Google actually encouraged website owners to submit to directories. Back then, new directories with names like Yahoo! and LookSmart actually employed human gatekeepers to look at websites to decide if they were good enough to list. A listing on a directory wasn't automatic at all then, the way it is now.
As far as Google could see then, it made a lot of sense to get people to submit to directories, because those directories were run by real people. Google could leave it to them and not worry about vetting a website for quality. They didn't anticipate then that the trust they placed in directories would be exploited. But new directories just sprouted out of the woodwork and tried to take advantage of the situation.
There were more than 2500 directories on the Internet two years ago when Google finally decided that it had had enough, and released the Penguin date. That update took aim at 80% of these directories and actually banned them. The 20% that remain aren't a good idea either.
Basically, a directory is only any use if there are real editors who man the gates and refuse to let any content in that isn't really good. If getting in is automatic, the directory is no use in a quality link building effort.
Consider E-zine Articles, for instance. A blurb right on their front page urges you to join them so that you can get “traffic back to your website”. Could you ever go to websites like the LA Times or MSN and see something like that?
They care about what they print. They have standards. Any website that asks just anyone at all to come in so that they can get links, is decidedly low-quality. Messing about with those directories doesn't count as quality link building.
Unfortunately, it doesn't simply end with these directories
There are so many more kinds of link that you should never try to get. You shouldn't ever get paid links. Link exchanges and link wheels are a bad idea. Going to forums and spamming them with links back to your website is a bad idea too. Profile spam – where you go and sign up for a profile on some website – doesn't work. All of these are manipulative linking methods – not quality link building.
There is no penalty though
While leaving links on these low-quality directories or using some of the manipulative linking methods above will most certainly never help you, these practices will never get you banned either. You must not let anyone tell you that.
It doesn't matter what works right now. For many people, these easy and meaningless link building exercises mentioned above did work up until a year or so ago. Google then came around and broke the game up. If you have a way that works right now, you should probably still stay away from it if it's manipulative in nature. If you know a way to get links that Google recognizes, but if those links are really not in the spirit of what Google wants, you can be sure that Google will find a way sooner or later to catch this out.
Quality link building is very hard. It takes real work. But that is the only thing that works over the long term. You don't want Google to come up with an update one of these days that penalizes your website by making all the links that you have worked on, disappear.
The best way to do quality link building
Certainly, you're not going to be able to get major websites to link to you, if you are a beginner yourself. What you can do instead, is to create quality content, and then build relationships the old-fashioned way, with the editors of other small, quality websites. Once they begin to see that you are an earnest person and that your website has good quality, they will link to you. When you establish relationships like these with perhaps 40 or 50 different small, but respectable websites that are run in a decent and earnest manner, the lot of you can begin to create your own linking ecosystem. It isn't an easy way to go about it. But it's the only way that works.